Getting Grants

John McGhee has worked for many years in the non-profit sector to lead relief and health education teams around the world. A large part of John's leadership involves fundraising, which he has often done through Grants. In this Question and Answer segment, John explains how he got started. His story illustrates the often bumpy road you must travel to receive a grant.

A Journey of Twists and Turns by John K McGhee

  • How did you get into grant writing?

My first grant almost fell into my lap. As a public health professional working in Pakistan, I already had some experience implementing projects funded by grants. I had directed a village barefoot doctor training program in the Sheikhupura district with $2,000,000 of funding provided by the EZE foundation out of Germany

As a result of the rigors of village travel, I contracted Hepatitis, Malaria, and Typhoid during a 6 month period. After recuperating, I was re-assigned to the country headquarters of ADRA. ADRA is a non-governmental relief agency, located on a beautiful 33 acre campus where we had clean water to drink. That was definitely a relief!

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John has Won Nearly Ten Million Dollars

One day the chairman called me to his office and said, “John I want you to operate a clinic for the villagers who live close to our office. I am prepared to arrange for enough funds to cover 50% of your operations during the first year. After that I expect the clinic to generate 100% of the total operation’s budget.

After conducting a needs assessment among the ten villages within a two-mile radius of our campus, I wrote a maternal child health proposal to weigh and inoculate babies and provide a primary health care clinic on the corner of our campus for the 50,000 people who lived in our target population.

Note that the first thing John did was to conduct a study relevant to the planned request for funds. He was then able to provide facts and statistics to give his proposal credibility. The grant maker could clearly see how money would be spent, where, and what the impact would be. (Learn more about the types of documentation required for grants.)

The grant proposal for $10,000 was funded. The clinic was established. And, within 6 months, was generating enough income to cover 100% of operations.

I have written twenty-one grant proposals since then. Fifteen were funded. Many of these were written in collaboration with other professionals.

In my case, most of those proposals were fairly easy to write because my organization had developed a reliable history of credibility with donors. The donors had developed a clearly established proposal protocol. All I had to do was fill in the blanks with new information while updating the demographic factors which provided justification for the grant proposal. This made my job easy and gave me good track record.

  • What is the total dollar amount of grants you have been awarded?

Very close to ten million dollars.

  • When you lost bids, why do you think you lost?

I did not adequately match my request with the donors special interests.

  • When you won, why do you think you won?

I was able to help the donor organization justify the grant because my organization was reliable, credible, transparent, and the proposal had established an excellent internal and external evaluation protocol.

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